The Impact of State Safe Routes to School-Related Laws on Active Travel to School Policies and Practices in U.S. Elementary Schools

Walking or biking to school provides opportunities for children to increase their physical activity. However, rates of active travel to school have decreased while rates of car-to-school travel have increased. This study assesses state laws requiring minimum bussing distances, hazardous route exemptions, sidewalks, crossing guards, speed zones, and traffic control measures around school and their relationship to active travel to school polices.

These researchers used a pooled, cross-sectional data set containing 1967 U.S. public elementary schools over the combined period, 2007–2009 (with 578, 749 and 641 schools included in each of the three corresponding study years). Data on state laws and schools were compiled through primary legal research.

Key Findings:

  • Nearly 40 percent of schools were located in states with minimum bussing distance requirements; 23.4 percent were located in states with hazardous route exemptions.
  • More schools allowed all students to walk to school if the state had a minimum bussing distance law of greater than one mile or a law requiring sidewalks or traffic control measures.
  • The odds of zero students walking/biking to school were 68 percent lower in states requiring crossing guards and 55 percent lower in states requiring speed zones.

While this article explores the relationship between state laws and active travel to school policies, further research is needed to build on this study’s areas of analysis.